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Automatic Pig Launcher & Receiver
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Pig Launcher Receiver 1
Multiple Unit Application
These units are designed to allow the sequential launching of pigs and spheres, in conjunction with release fingers and/or coordinated valve operation. The launch process can be controlled remotely enabling traps to be installed on unmanned platforms and facilities. This sequential launching to take place without having to repeatedly de-pressurize and re-pressurize after each launching. The process can also be controlled from a remote location. This is particularly relevant on unmanned platforms such as offshore platforms and sour service applications.
The launch of spheres or pigs is controlled by automatic or manual release fingers which allow individual sequential launching into the pipeline.
From basic body to a skid-mounted, fully-automated unit can be provided to meet client exact requirements.
A fully staffed and experienced engineering department can provide all the design disciplines necessary to complete scraper trap packages like structural design, piping stress analysis, and instrumentation logic.
Namdaran Petrogas Ind. will design systems to meet specific operational requirements. This can include not limited to:
- Multiple valve operation
- Automatic or manually operated sphere release systems
- Integrated skid mounted packages
Accessories & Options
Optional features and accessory equipment include:
- Baskets
- Bi-directional Trap Systems
- Pig signalers (manual or automatic, remote or local)
- Saddle Supports
- Pig Launching Systems (manual or automatic)
- Inclined, Declined or Vertical Construction
- Pig Storage
- All Controls, Drives and Instrumentation
- Liquid Handling System
Pig Launcher Receiver 2
Current Multiple Pig Launching Systems

So what is currently available?
There are three main systems used globally, namely:

  1. Valve type Pig Launcher
  2. Vertical Multiple Pig Launcher
  3. Automatic Sphere Launcher

1. Valve Type Multiple Pig Launcher

The trap is fitted with a set of launch valves for each pig in the launcher. This allows line pressure to be directed behind each pig in turn and so be launched individually as required. Although a very reliable system, the additional valving requirement adds considerable cost to the system, especially when fitted to a large diameter pipeline, due to the high cost of the large valves required for the multiple kicker lines.

This system is used predominantly in sub-sea applications with either a diver or ROV operating the valves as required, or the valves are fitted with remotely operated actuators which adds again to the overall cost. It is also retrospectively fitted to existing installation pig launchers if an automatic launching requirement is later identified.

2. Vertical Multiple Pig Launcher

This system is based around the space saving solution of a vertical pig launcher as used on many offshore installations. It is to all intents and purposes an extended standard launcher, but with the addition of hydraulically operated launch pins that protrude into the oversize barrel of the launcher. The first pig is loaded into the throat of the launcher, and then the first or lowest launch pin is extended. Another pig is then loaded resting on, and held up by the launch pin. Subsequent pins and pigs are then inserted until the traps capacity is reached.
The first pig is launched in the normal way. When another pigging run is required, the lowest launch pin is retracted, and the pig above it falls into the throat of the launcher. This pig is then launched. Subsequent pins are then retracted as and when further pigging runs are required.

As before this is a very reliable multiple pig launching system, however it does suffer from the same problems in that the initial outlay can be quite high due to the launch pins and the hydraulics required to operate them. Extra maintenance is also required to ensure the launch pins operate correctly, and they require regular inspections to ensure that they have not become bent due to excessive forces.

3. Automatic Sphere Launcher

Although not technically a pig launcher, spheres are regularly used when large numbers of cleaning runs are required, but the efficiency is not critical, usually where the removal of unwanted fluids is the primary cleaning requirement.
They operate in a similar manner to the Vertical Multiple Pig Launchers already discussed, utilising launch pins, but with the trap on a slight decline from the horizontal. Spheres are loaded with the front pin extended, and the rear pin retracted. When a launch is required the rear pin extends, holding back the remaining spheres. The front pin retracts allowing the lead sphere to roll into the pipeline. When the downstream signaller indicates the sphere has been successfully launched, the front pin extends, the rear pin retracts, the remaining spheres roll forward and the system resets itself for the next launch. Although quite widely used, this system is predominantly used for fluid removal and not for physical line cleaning due to the sphere only having one sealing face, and therefore a tendency to ride over solid residues in the pipe.

Pipeline Engineering's Solution

The Automatic Multiple Pig Launching System (AMPL)

Pipeline Engineering identified a need for a multiple pig launching system that can be retrospectively fitted to existing launcher facilities without the need for costly trap modifications. To solve the problem it was decided to concentrate on the design of the pigs themselves, and to develop a method of controlling the launch using bolt-on control technology (patent applied for Application No. 0603369.0) and standard pigs instead of adapting the trap.
The system operates in a similar way to standard pigging equipment. The Pigs are either pre-loaded into a specially designed cassette, which is then inserted into the standard trap, or they are loaded into the trap in which the cassette has already been fitted. The number of pigs in the cassette is pre-determined by the length of the trap.
The launch control system on the pigs is designed in such a way that the next pig to be launched is only armed when the trap has been depressurised after the previous launch, and so cannot be launched accidentally. It has the additional safety system in place that if the control mechanism fails, no pigs can or will launch. If a pig does fail to launch, the system has a 2nd chance to launch simply by depressurising and then re-pressurising the launcher. In the highly unlikely event that the pig fails to launch during this 2nd attempt, then the pig will be required to be unloaded and investigated.

The advantages that the Pipeline Engineering Automatic Multiple Pig Launching System has are the same as the benefits previously discussed. It also has one important unique benefit, it can be retrospectively fitted to almost all currently in use pig launchers, with no adaptation to the current configuration or the addition of any extra valving or control systems. The only addition is the specially designed launcher basket which can be removed easily if Intelligent or any other non-routine pigging is required.
Conclusions

The need for frequent regular pigging of all types of pipelines has been graphically highlighted recently with some high profile oil spillages. These can be linked to sediment build up causing internal corrosion and hence pipeline leaks. The spills could have been avoided with the application of a specifically designed pigging program and the correct pigs to carry it out.
Automatic Multiple Pig Launchers are an exceptionally good way of carrying out general cleaning pigging programmes, reducing the number of deployments of pigging specialists, and allowing installation staff more time to concentrate on other routine requirements.
The system that is selected however must be tailored to both the installations and the pipelines specific needs, and also be flexible enough to adapt to changes in those needs if and when they are required.

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